Duesenberg ‘122-32’ (1932)
by Michael Ferner
Duesenberg is always good for a mystery or two, check out Wilbur Shaw at the 1931 Indy 500: most records show him entered as #6, Duesenberg Special, entrant A. S. Duesenberg. He did not qualify because of engine problems in the time trials, so what exactly did he drive? The MoToR article in Clymer’s “Race History” gives roughly the same specs for his car as for those of Frame, Triplett and Litz – so, it’s the fourth Augie-type Duesey, right? Yet, the Fox Indy 500 “bible” has a small black & white picture of him in a dark car, with a white (?) “6’ painted on the engine cover, only it looks like one of Fred’s Model A based Dueseys – a very different animal! And he did drive relief for both Pardee and Gleason in Fred’s cars in the race, too! Huh? Had me hugely puzzled over several years! There’s enough evidence (including pictures) for us to know that Shaw did drive one of Augie’s cars with #6 later that year, and there’s no trace whatsoever of a third Fred-type car in any other race, so what’s the story? Apparently, Shaw tested one of Fred’s cars in April at the Speedway, a couple of weeks before the official opening – there were reports in the newspapers, accompanied by a photograph which is very similar to the one in the Fox “bible”. It’s not the same, but it is obvious that it was taken in at least very similar circumstances – in fact, it offers a perfect explanation as to why the 1931 Shaw picture is so different from all the other (non) qualifying pictures in the book! Perhaps Shaw originally meant to drive that car, but reconsidered after testing it, after which its colour was changed to orange?
The last new Duesenberg to appear at Indy was the 1932 model, and it’s also not free of mystery, so to speak. It had a frame much like the 1930 Augie cars, but with subtle differences, and also a different body. It would be easy to assume that it was just another rebuild of one of the earlier cars, especially as chassis ‘4’ is unaccounted for after 1931, but that would leave the Romania car out in the cold! Hence, it must’ve been new. Its engine was another 91 variant, at first, but for 1933 it got a new, bigger Clemons engine, since those puny Dueseys simply didn’t put out enough power to qualify any longer. Interestingly, this car was initially entered by a Fred P. Duesenberg, even after the death of Fred S. in 1932 – it was Augie’s son!
- 1932 #49 Consumers Petroleum Oils, grey?, Duesenberg 137, F. P. Duesenberg, Johnny Kreiger (ret Indy), Joe Russo (7th Detroit, 7th Chicago, ret Syracuse, dns Detroit)
- 1933 #18 Wonder Bread, white/red/blue, Clemons 279, F. P. Duesenberg, Joe Russo (17th Indy, 5th Detroit, ret Syracuse)
- 1934 #16 Wonder Bread, orange/white, Clemons 279, J. E. Russo (5th Indy)
Last updated by Michael Ferner on 25 Feb 2013.
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